Pilots upset over lower-paid colleagues

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Discount carrier Norwegian Air has opened a new base in Helsinki, but its pilots are unhappy because the airline is using pilots from Estonia who have accepted wages that are much lower than those paid to pilots in either Norway or Finland.

“We’re doing this of course because it means we can fly cheaper,” Anne-Sissel Skånvik of Norwegian told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), admitting that an Estonian captain will earn around NOK 600,000 a year, compared to NOK 1 million for a Norwegian captain. She added that the lower-paid pilots hired in from Estonia give Norwegian “flexibility” since the Helsinki base is a start-up operation.

“Legally, Norwegian is right, but morally, this is reprehensible,” one Norwegian pilot told DN. He didn’t want his name used, for fear of reaction from Norwegian’s management.

The pilot’s association has resisted having to train their new Estonian colleagues, and plans to report the airline to labour authorities. Questions have arisen over whether the situation amounts to social dumping. Skånvik wouldn’t comment.

She told DN, however, that Norwegian is “leasing” the pilots and they are not employees of Norwegian.

DN reports that Bjørn Kjos nonetheless is facing his first serious labour conflict since launching Norwegian in 2002. Skånvik told DN Kjos was unavailable for comment.

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